Reconsidering Campus Security

Last Monday, Virginia Polytechnic Institute lost 33 students in the worst shooting in American history. Though distant, the events of that day have shaken Andover students. We used to laugh about the “Shelter-in-Place” drill, but after April 16 there is nothing to joke about. The Virginia Tech tragedy last Monday reminds us that, even if flawed, Phillips’ “Shelter-in-Place” protocol has the potential to save lives. We are not a school of 29,000 – our emergency efforts pale in comparison to what it would have taken to save the Virginia Tech students – but at least we have an emergency plan. Unfortunately, the “Shelter-in-Place” does have its deficiencies. As tragically demonstrated last Monday, e-mail is not an effective means to communicate an emergency. Similarly, students can have difficulty hearing PAPS cars’ loudspeakers to know when the emergency drill begins and ends. These issues could leave many in the community at risk. However, there is a more effective means of communication which the administration has yet to explore. Cell phones should be the vehicles of emergency communication, not e-mail or loudspeakers. If the frequent interruptions of class and All-School Meeting are any measure, almost every student has a cell phone. Students usually have their cell phone with them, and often they are left on. As most students would agree, text messaging is a very effective way to send information quickly. Furthermore, it would not be impractical or particularly difficult to keep cell phone numbers on record and send mass texts in the case of an emergency. Even in the strictest classrooms, someone is sure to get the news. Monday’s shootings remind us that we cannot be complacent. Even in our bubble, tragedy could someday strike. Though the administration’s efforts have been commendable, the “Shelter-in-Place” drill is lacking. A cell phone communication plan could supplement this drill. Still, the community needs to take a hard look at its system for responding to emergencies. Next week, The Phillipian will run an In-Depth report on campus security here at Phillips Academy. This editorial represents the views of The Phillipian Editorial Board CXXX.